The Controversy over Grameen and Muhammad Yunus
You may have read recently about Muhammad Yunus and a movement by politicians in Bangladesh to remove him from his position as Managing Director of Grameen Bank, which he founded. The Supreme Court in Bangladesh is due to hear his case this week.
About six years ago, when I was changing careers from the media business to nonprofit work, I read Professor Yunus’s autobiography, Banker to the Poor. Like many others who have been inspired by his story, I now look back at that as a moment that changed my life. Reading his account helped deepen my understanding of global poverty – and how the poor could build better lives for their families. While Professor Yunus did not invent microcredit, he made important innovations and was an extraordinary advocate for microfinance as a way to enable even the poorest to have access to capital. He helped show that women were important engines of development and that the poor could be trusted to handle money responsibly, including paying off their microcredit loans.
Reading Banker to the Poor was a milestone in my journey to Trickle Up, which I joined in 2006. Of the many things that impressed me about Trickle Up was that Professor Yunus served on its Advisory Council. While our approach differs from Grameen’s, due to the needs of the populations we serve, both Professor Yunus and Trickle Up founders Glen and Mildred Robbins Leet were pioneers in the 1970s and 1980s movements to empower the poor.
I’ve had the opportunity to hear Professor Yunus speak a number of times and to meet with him on two occasions. Each time I was inspired anew by his example, his optimism, his inventiveness and his encouragement to everyone who was working to be part of the solution to global poverty.
The charges against Professor Yunus are the result of a political vendetta in Bangladesh, perhaps the consequence of his own brief attempt a few years ago to start a political party there. It is simply an outrage that a pioneer of Professor Yunus’s stature must now defend himself against entrenched politicians, whose motive may also be to seize control of Grameen.
The ultimate losers would be the poor.
Like many of our colleagues in field of poverty alleviation, we stand with Professor Yunus and hope that he and Grameen are able to continue their work, free of political influence.
If you would like to join us in supporting Professor Yunus, please visit http://www.friendsofgrameen.com/ to find out how you can add your voice via petitions, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and letters to the editor.
Bill Abrams President, Trickle Up